More than 100,000 Britons have signed an online petition to ban U.S. Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump from the country following his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump, who owns two golf courses in Scotland which he visited earlier this year, called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on,” following last week’s deadly shooting spree in California by two Muslims.
“The UK has banned entry to many individuals for hate speech,” the text of the British petition said.
“If the United Kingdom is to continue applying the ‘unacceptable behaviour’ criteria to those who wish to enter its borders, it must be fairly applied to the rich as well as poor, and the weak as well as powerful.”
Britain’s interior ministry has the power to ban people from entering the country if they have engaged in what the government determines to be unacceptable behaviour. In the past people have been banned for fostering hatred that might provoke inter-community violence.
Asked by reporters on Wednesday whether she would consider banning Trump, Home Secretary Theresa May merely said it was important for politicians to ensure “cohesion among communities rather than division”.
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, who gave a speech in London alongside May, said she could not comment on Trump’s remarks or whether his policy would be legal. However, she said entry to the United States was based on specific criteria and whether someone was legally entitled to be there.
“We do try and focus more on what people do as opposed to the inimitable characteristic of who they are,” Lynch told reporters.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of ink spilled on this in the days to come. What I would say is when it comes to religious tests for things as important as transiting borders, that that would be inconsistent with the American values that this administration is trying to uphold.”
The petition was launched by Suzanne Kelly, a Scottish-based campaigner and longtime critic of Trump’s latest golf course in Aberdeenshire.
By midday on Wednesday, it had attracted over 100,000 signatures, a number which was rising quickly.
The government responds to all petitions that gain more than 10,000 signatures, and the topic will be considered for a parliamentary debate if they reach 100,000.
British politicians generally avoid commenting on the political affairs of other countries but on Tuesday a spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron said Cameron thought Trump’s comments were “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong”.
In seeking to defend his proposal, Trump said the United states needed to be vigilant because parts of London and Paris were now so radicalised they could no longer be policed by officers who feared for their lives.
London’s Metropolitan Police took the rare stance of criticising Trump while London Mayor Boris Johnson said: “the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump.”
The police said: “We would not normally dignify such comments with a response, however on this occasion we think it’s important to state to Londoners that Mr Trump could not be more wrong.”
Britain has an estimated 2.7 million Muslims among its 65 million population. Earlier this year, the government said fighting extremism was one of the defining battles of this century and announced a strategy primarily designed to counter the ideology promoted by Islamic State militants, al Qaeda and other radical Islamists.